Cambridge student faces death penalty in South Sudan
Peter Biar-Ajak has been detained since July 2018
A Trinity PhD student is facing the death penalty after being “arbitrarily detained in a modern-day hellhole” according to his lawyer Jared Genser, after criticising the South Sudanese regime.
35-year-old Mr Ajak, a prominent political activist, returned to South Sudan last year to host a youth forum but was seized by authorities. No charges have yet been pressed, with Amnesty International stating: “South Sudanese authorities must either release him so he can rejoin his wife and children who miss him dearly, or charge him with an offence recognised under international law."
Despite a petition began by his family which has received over 80,000 signatures, there has been no official recognition of the illegality of his treatment, which contradicts the South Sudanese constitution. This states that no one may be held for over 24 hours without charge.
Those charges being considered include treason and terrorism, both of which carry the death penalty in South Sudan. Shortly before his arrest Mr Ajak tweeted “we must stop thinking that the so-called leaders will bring peace #SouthSudan. We, the great people of #SouthSudan, must organize ourselves to bring about the peace we deserve!" It is believed that it could be part of the reason for his detainment, though no details have ever been released.
As well as having studied at Harvard and La Salle, Mr Ajak is the first South Sudanese person ever to study at Cambridge. The university stated recently that it was "deeply concerned about Peter’s welfare and his access to legal representation and the violation of his rights in accordance with the constitution of South Sudan, which guarantees all South Sudanese people liberty and security of person, due process, and freedom of expression and association.”
The South Sudanese government has yet to comment.